The Best of BoCoCa

On Sunday, Daniel and I left BoCoCa, the Brooklyn neighborhoods (Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens) that we've called home for six years. Our new apartment in Park Slope isn't far away. I'm just a sappy food lover. There are so many places I'm really going to miss! Good thing I joined a Carroll Gardens CSA. I'll be back in the 'hood every other Saturday.

We've been gut renovating our new apartment for the past 8 weeks. The kitchen and bathroom aren't ready yet, so we moved all our stuff in on Sunday, celebrated with beers and bratwurst at Cafe Steinhof, a funky Austrian restaurant, then schlepped an absurd amount of laundry, our Brita, a jar of stone ground mustard, my beloved spelt bread, a few bars of frozen chocolate, and all the other refrigerator items I wouldn't dare throw out, to my Mom's 1-bedroom apartment on the Upper East Side.

After weeks of packing and picking out paint colors and one too many visits to Lowes and Home Depot, this Manhattan mini-vacation is just what I need. The first apartment Daniel and I shared together in New York was on the Upper East Side. It's good to be back.

Our apartment renovation has made me more curious about architecture, so I don't need a magazine or something else to distract me as I commute on the crosstown bus each morning. Instead, I crane my neck like a tourist, studying the buildings that soar into the sky. At night, the faint hum that fills the air isn't disturbing. These sounds of city life lull me to sleep.

Usually when we visit my Mom, after work or for a Sunday dinner, the hours seem to fly by. Now, we can appreciate the spring skies together, split leftover bars of chocolate while watching movies, and just be.

And she can do what she loves most. Cook! You remember her award-winning lasagna and meatloaf, right?

On Sunday she welcomed us with sea bass swathed in a silky rhubarb sauce, a tabbouleh salad that's best when eaten straight from the bowl, salty sauteed spinach and a really crisp white wine from South Africa.

On Monday there was a big pot of bow tie pasta with sausage and peppers, and last night we watched her latest Netflix delivery while devouring salmon in a maple chipotle sauce, mashed potatoes and garlicky steamed broccoli.

The past three mornings, Daniel was sent to work with leftovers and I received a perfectly chopped salad topped with toasted nuts, avocado, Brussel sprouts, cranberries and smoked mozzarella. I feel like I'm 10 all over again. And I love it.

As soon as we're settled in our new place, I'll be back with more posts. Until then, I hope you'll enjoy my Best Of BoCoCa list. Whether you're new to the neighborhood or just planning a visit, these spots should not be missed!

A specialty food store that's great for olives, coffee, dried fruit, cheese, sacks of spices, nuts, grains, and fresh loaves of bread, Sahadi's just might be the place I'll miss the most. It's pretty small, always packed, and the selection is amazing. I'd always go in for a few things and leave an hour later with a cart full of stuff. Weekends get really crowded, so mid-week visits are best.

One Girl Cookies

I was so happy when this bright blue cookie shop opened across the street from our apartment last year. You'd think a sign that screamed COOKIES every day would have gotten old, or annoying, but nope, never did. It always made me smile. I love the robin's egg blue walls, the cool, swirly brown wallpaper and the luxuriously named bite-size cookies. They're all addictive, although if I had to choose, I'd say the Olga (mint ganache sandwiched between two sugar cookies) and Lucia (shortbread, caramel, and chocolate layer bar) are the best. They also have unbelievably moist cupcakes topped with a crown of icing, Il Laboratorio gelato, fudgy brownies that are almost as good as the ones at Fat Witch, tea and coffee. Peeking in at their cute storefront display was such a nice way to start the day.

Boerum Hill Food Company
Daniel loves the muffins at this neighborhoody cafe that's good for a cup of coffee, a homemade sweet, or a hearty breakfast. On the morning of our move, we woke up extra early and went there for a quick breakfast. We lucked out with the two overstuffed chairs near the front window, a spot that is almost always taken, and split an omelette stuffed with asparagus and gruyere. And then, Daniel's favorite. A banana pecan muffin, toasted and topped with a few pats of butter.

Los Paisanos
(162 Smith St. at Bergen)
For the first few years I lived in Brooklyn, I begrudgingly bought my meat at Key Food. Then a co-worker told me about Los Paisanos, a butcher on Smith Street. In the neighborhood for over 40 years, this is the kind of place you'd expect to find in Brooklyn. After my first few visits, I felt like family. I'm a sucker for their specialty sausage, grilled olives and pumpkin ravioli.

Fish Tales
When it comes to food shopping, Brooklyn has always felt very European to me. I buy my meat at one shop, my cheese at another, and for seafood, there is Fish Tales. Everyone who works there is warm and welcoming, and the fish is by far some of the freshest you'll find.

Sweet Melissa
Every time I went to the Cobble Hill movie theater, I'd stop by Sweet Melissa for six gingernsaps (crispy with an extra spicy kick) and a cup of milk. Lucky for me, a second location recently opened up in Park Slope.

This restaurant isn't technically in BoCoCa, but it's been one of my favorites for years. Devoted to local and seasonal ingredients, it's a funky, airy place with free pool. If you go to the weekend bluegrass brunch, you must try the breakfast burrito, a belly bomb that's smothered with green chilies from New Mexico.

In my opinion, this is one of the best restaurants on Smith Street. The menu is innovative and unique (I love the buckwheat crepe with farro, house made gravlox and crème fraiche), they have a huge hidden garden, and though I'm not really into brunch, their homemade chocolate chip scones and poached eggs with wild mushrooms, toast and caramelized shallots have definitely won me over.

Frankies 457
Although I've complained about the no reservation policy and long lines in the past, I still think Frankies 457 is a great place for a laid-back dinner with a bunch of friends. Just remember, the bigger the group, the more Italian small plates you can sample. I'm partial to the bracciole (be warned that it's just a big hunk of meat: I always get some gnocchi on the side) and the butternut squash ravioli, a sweet entree that's tempered by a salty broth. There's also a glorious garden.

For a special occasion, Daniel and I love Saul, the only restaurant in Brooklyn that's received a Michelin star. Just a stone's throw away from our apartment, it always felt funny to walk five feet for such a fancy meal. Now that we live further away, I bet we'll visit more often.

You won't be blown away by the Mexican food, but you will love the cozy rooftop. Kick back with a margarita and watch the sun set over Manhattan.

Le Petite Crevette
It's easy to fall in love with this seafood shack that's off-the-beaten-path. The walls are turquoise, the tables are tightly packed and the owner makes each and every meal himself. Go while it's still BYOB.

Whenever I crave burgers, nothing hits the spot like a bunch of schnackies. Served on squishy buns and smothered with all types of different toppings (try the mushrooms and onions), they are perfect for pigging out.

Ever since this place opened on Smith Street last year (replacing long-time neighborhood favorite, Banania) I've had a soft spot for it. Everytime I go, I order the salmon with corn salad and truffle oil, and one time I had a very unusual, but memorable, parsley salad.

Cafe Luluc
BoCoCa has plenty of French bistros to choose from, but Cafe Luluc is definitely my favorite. A bunch of magazines offer instant entertainment when dining solo and the fish tacos I always order are a nice break from steak frites.

Bar Tabac
A BoCoCa fixture, Bar Tabac was just steps away from our apartment. The food I could do without, but you know what I'll really miss? The live jazz and bluegrass bands they had every weekend. During the warmer months, their soft sounds would sneak through my open windows.

Smith & Vine
It seems as if everyone in the neighborhood is best friends with the bubbly, passionate couple who run this excellent wine shop. I always made a beeline for their $10 and under table, the perfect place to get a good bottle for cheap.

Conveniently located across the street from Smith & Vine, this was yet another place that enhanced that European feel. The cheese selection is excellent and the place is stocked with all sorts of other gourmet goodies.

A Cook's Companion
Whenever Daniel and I had big dinner parties, I always found myself running to Cook's Companion for a tablecloth or a ramekin and on one occasion, a 9-quart Le Creuset. Although it's definitely more overpriced than many cookware shops in the city, it just feels right to support a local business.

Another BYOB spot, this casual Mediterranean spot is cheap, cozy and has the best freshly baked bread.

Nicky's Vietnamese Sandwiches
A few months ago, Daniel and I hosted our very own battle of the banh mi and awarded Hanco's as our winner. Shortly after I put up that post, I fell in love with the vegetarian banh mi at nearby Nicky's. Made with portobello mushrooms, it's a lighter 5 buck sandwich that will still set your mouth ablaze.

Many weekends, Daniel and I would find ourselves at this dark Italian sandwich spot splitting bruschetta (the one with fresh ricotta is exceptionally light and refreshing) and a few melty, meat-stuffed panini. A nutella sandwich dusted with powdered sugar was our favorite dessert. Like many of the spots on this list, Panino'teca has a surprisingly lush and hidden garden. It was there that I realized I do like Bloody Marys and for that, I am very thankful.

I could go on and on about all the other places I love in BoCoCa since the list keeps on growing. I'm sure I've forgotten a few, but these really are my favorites. Park Slope certainly isn't far away, so I know I'll be back soon.

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AnnieKNodes said...

Good luck with your renovations and move. I can't wait to see what you cook up in your new kitchen.

And yes, it's so great to be mothered every once in a while. And lucky you, with such an accomplished cook for a mom. I have a feeling she's going to get a very special mother's day gift.

Lia said...

Thanks Anne! The renovation is finally over and we're slowly getting settled. As soon as I'm back from my trip, I'll do some serious cooking.

Oh and my Mom got a picnic in Prospect Park which she loved. Happy belated Mother's Day to you!

annulla said...

Hmmm. I haven't been to Chestnut, but you've inspired me to give it a try.

Lia said...

I hope you like it, Annulla!

Dreidel Hustler said...

New to the neighborhood. Haven't totally explored BoCoCa in its entirety, but we feel pretty like we've got most of the area down pat.

Glad to hear you aren't psyched about the food at Alma; I agree. I'll keep up with your blog to hear more about where to go in the Slope.


Lia said...

Dreidel, enjoy BoCoCa. I miss it even more than I expected (and it's not even that far away). It's been great to discover a new neighborhood though and I hope to start writing soon about some favorite places in Park Slope.

Anonymous said...

i found out about your blog via the foodnetwork site. it entertains me while i am at work ^.^. i just wanted to let you know that it's 'banh mi'. saw the error on foodnetworks site as well but merely thought it was a typo

Lia said...

Anonymous: Thanks for letting me know!

Drink, Memory said...

I think you're going to be very happy in Park Slope. If I may venture to suggest,try Cocotte and AOC Bistro, both on fifth ave. For those days you're not in the mood to cook, check out the new Get Fresh Store.( Prepped meals using only local, seasonal ingredients.)

Lia said...

Drink, Memory: We are very happy in Park Slope, especially today since snow is falling and our view of Prospect Park looks even prettier than usual. I haven't tried Cocotte, AOC or Get Fresh yet. Thanks for the recs. I'll add them to my list!


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